Wednesday, October 27, 2010


LYNCHBURG (pop. 361), Tennessee. Five years ago it was the whiskey maker’s location and the Jack Daniel’s legend that caught my eye. I found to my delight that the venerable distillery in lovely rural Tennessee was host to the world’s most prestigious and selective barbecue competition. I've returned every year to my favorite event in America.
They came in October’s leaf season to compete in “The Jack,” as it is known, sporting names like Parrothead Smokers, Pickin’ Porkers, Phat Jack’s and Smokin’ Lipps, part of more than 100 American teams and 21 international teams including Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Germany, Puerto Rico, Switzerland and the United Kingdom selected for the 22nd Annual Jack Daniel’s World Championship Invitational Barbecue. This is the world’s most prestigious barbecue competition where slow cookers battle the flames in Jack Daniel’s Hollow.  This year’s grand champion, QUAU from Brimfield, Illinois savored their cash prize and priceless bragging rights.

Lynchburg, like Jack Daniel’s, is pure Americana. Nestled in the rolling hills between Nashville and Chattanooga, the village has a Currier and Ives feel and all the color and whimsy of a Grandma Moses painting. The Jack Daniel’s Distillery, the oldest registered distillery in the United States, operates on the same grounds where in 1866 it began, a fabled fixture on the National Register of Historic Places. 

“Barbecue competition is serious business and the rules for participation and winning are strictly enforced,” said one of the high-profile judges, television celebrity Kelly Sutton, morning news anchor at Nashville’s WZTV. To compete at The Jack, domestic teams must have in the past year won a state championship with 25 teams or a competition of 50 teams, or have won an event considered an automatic to the event like the American Royal, Memphis in May or Houston World Championship.

More than 35,000 people descended on Lynchburg to bask in the aroma of award-winning barbecue. “Being on the professional barbecue circuit is a way of life, and many people spend their whole lives trying to get to The Jack,” said Lynne Tolley, great-grandniece of Jack Daniel.  “After a long season of cooking and qualifying, just getting here is a reward in itself. Every year we are amazed at how the interest grows.”

Silky Sullivan, the legendary Memphis restaurant and bar owner and high profile judge at The Jack, once prepared barbecue in Moscow’s Red Square. A peerless raconteur, Sullivan says “barbecue pairs nicely with Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7 Tennessee Whiskey.” It’s a natural fit, Lynchburg’s gift to the world.

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